EDIT – I started writing this article specially for startups but realized that most of the methods should work for any business so edited the post title as well as some part of the article.
After building the product, most of the startups hit a wall that “now what” ? How should we market our product since most often, either the founders never took marketing into consideration at the time of starting or feels that the product is so good that it will go viral anyway (founders bias), unfortunately it rarely happens. Most of the startups also run out of steam after contacting major blogs in their vertical in first few months.
Since Startups can’t afford $10,000 per month PR firms or paid media coverage (otherwise they are not startups,right?) so I thought to made a list of all the ways using which startups can do online marketing with shoe string budget since I myself faced the same challenges with my last startup which eventually lead to to built inBoundio, (a simplified marketing software) and I am obviously following the same inbound marketing methods (specially the content marketing part) with zero marketing budget.
So here are 51 ways of Marketing on Shoestring budget for startups
Listings and Submissions
You initially want to start with submitting your startup to sites which you think can get you initial beta users. I am putting such list here (taken from this post) but you can build your own such list depending on your niche.
7. Gust.com – Gustis very much like betalist which connects you to various people including angel invetors.
8. Vator – like Venturebeat Profile, you can create profile for your startup
9. Reddit – you can find suitable subreddit for your product and can submit your site, preferably mentioning its usage and how it can help the people.
10. Depending on your vertical, you can submit your startup to relevant review/listing websites. For example, if you have really good design and are selling something web-based, you can submit it to many CSS and Design galleries, here is one such list.
Some Other sites to which you can submit your startup
20. MakeUseOf – Though primarily a HowTo Blog,
21. Ziipa – You can submit your mobile and web apps here
There are many more such sites which you can find through Google search though most of them don’t have that activity.
Do Content Marketing
Content Marketing should be your preferred way initially as it will help you to get some organic traffic with very little investment.
27. Blogging – Having a company blog is a must and instead of writing about your product features (how many posts you can really write anyway?) you can write on helpful content for your target audience. Here is the list of 100+ blogging platforms though ideally WordPress should be enough for most of your needs.
28. Case Studies and HowTo Guides- You can create case studies in your vertical by gathering info from your current users. Here is a nice case study template which you may use otherwise there are plenty more such templates at docstoc.
29. Press Releases – If you have launched a new feature or anything which others may find it interesting, it is worth writing a press release. You can find Press Release samples from here and here are few lists of major press release websites. You can actually find many relevant PR examples from these sites too.
30. Infographics – You can create infographics from various reports as they are much easier to share on the web. You can find some really good samples on these three urls. You can create infographics online by yourself using infogr.am or easel.ly as well can check this blog post which lists 20+ infographic creation tools.
31. Reports & Trends – You can gather data on your site with forms/surveys and create Trends and Reports which you can publish on the web as well as send it to various media sites. To create online embedded forms on your site you can use wufoo, formsite or jotform. To create free surveys, you can use surveymonkey and kwiksurveys. To create free charts online, you can use chartgo, this blog post also lists 45+ more such charting and graph tools which you can create for your reports and trends.
32. Write Articles – You can write articles for major article syndication sites. Here is one such list of article directories. Before publishing your content, you may want to check it for grammatical errors, for which you can use After the Deadline chrome plugin.
33. Create PDF and eBooks – You can create pdf and ebooks and submit them to various document and ebook hosting sites. You can use pdfonline or freepdfconvert to convert the doc into pdf and ebooks. Here is the list of sites to which you can upload your pdf and ebooks.
34. Web Forums – If it suits your vertical, you can actively involved in web forums. This can be a good way to get web visibility, followers and early adopters. For example, for inBoundio, I got the first beta tester from a webmaster/marketing forum. You can use google alerts (chose discussions) to find topics which are relevant to you and are being discussed in forums.
35. Write Reviews – You can write review of other products or ask others to cover your startup/product.
36. Guest Blogging – Just like the way I am doing, you can also write on various blogs. Make sure you don’t write promotional content, ideally you want to share your knowledge and experience. SEJ has a really good post on this last month which you should check. YouMoz also has a good post on how to find guest blogging opportunities.
37. Videos and Screencasts – You can create videos and upload them on major video hosting sites. Here is a list of major video hosting sites. SmashingApps has a good blog post on list of tools using which you can create free screencasts.
38. PPTs – You can upload your PowerPoint Presentations on SlideShare and DocStoc and similar sites. To find great PPT slides/templates/inspiration, you can look at slideshare presentation of the day.
39. Images/Photos – just like infographics, you can create images and use Tumblr, Stumbleupon, Pinterest, Facebook etc to spread them on the web. You can use pixlr to do online image editing.
40. Interviews – You can take interviews (or if possible, may be can give too) and publish them on your blog. I have always enjoyed watching mixergy interviews so you can find similar platforms for your niche too.
41. Create Lists – You can create lists (like this) and spread them on the web through guest blog posting or through your own blog.
42. Q/A websites – if it suits your vertical, you can use Quora and similar Q/A sites to answer relevant questions.
43. Create plugin, modules and Browser Extensions – You can create WordPress plugins, Drupal/Joomla modules as well as create browser extensions. Here is an excellent tutorial on how to write a wordpress plugin. Do check Chrome Developer blog as they have some really stuff on writing chrome plugins like this beginners post.
44. Podcasts – Not for everyone but if you think this will work, you can create podcasts too. Apple has really good article on what are podcasts and how to create for iTunes, you can also use podomatic to create podcasts too.
45. Give Freebies or run Competitions - Well you can always run competition or give freebies. For example, you can give 20 free premium accounts of your product. You can run competitions on twitter using hashtags as well can use Rafflecopter which has excellent option to make your giveaway campaign viral involving social media.
Social Media Marketing for Startups
46. Facebook – With Facebook, you can build a following as well as crosslink your content. You can use PageModo to create custom Facebook pages and use inBoundio to send scheduled posts. SME has excellent blog post for startups and small businesses on list of facebook tools which you can use for marketing.
47. Twitter – Have your presence on twitter as every product need followers. You can hire some freelancer and create custom twitter background pages with your contacts and product description. You can also create lists on twitter in your niche which others can subscribe. FourthSource has excellent blog post on list of free twitter tools which you can use for marketing.
48. LinkedIn - You can use LinkedIn groups as well as LinkedIn timeline to cross link and promote your content. Copyblogger has a good article on how to use LinkedIn to market your business as well this Kissmetrics post.
49. Google+ – With Google+ so tightly coupled with other Google properties, you certainly want to leverage on Google+. No matter what you think, it do have active users. After creating your company page on Google+, you can add relevant people in your industry in various circles and do not forget to interact with others content. Unbounce has a nice post on how to use Google+ for marketing.
SocialMediaExaminer has excellent post on various social media tools which you should check too.
Local and Mobile
50. Local Business Listings – You can list your stratup/business to local directories. for example, you can submit to Google local, Yahoo local, Yelp, YellowPages. FourSquare etc.
51. Local Startup Groups – Most of the cities have local startup groups so you can join them. It will help you to connect with other startups as well as you can get some local coverage. You can search at Google Groups and MeetUps to find local startup chapters in your city.
If you know any more ways/methods, please do put it in comments. You can also subscribe inBoundio blog feed by mail as well as to its twitter account @inBoundio to stay updated with various online inbound marketing related articles and guides.